Janitors march for contract negotiations

Hundreds of janitors and union workers gathered in front of Bovard Auditorium and marched down Trousdale Parkway on Thursday afternoon to protest possible changes to their contracts and to make their voices heard as negotiations draw to a close.

“Justice for janitors” · A protest leader riles up the crowd of protesting janitors and service employees on Trousdale Parkway at the march and demonstration Thursday. – Mindy Curtis | Daily Trojan

USC’s janitors are contracted through an outside company, Aramark. The university’s current contract with Aramark ends Friday at midnight and workers said current negotiations for the renewed contract include improved health care benefits.

“Our priority is health insurance,” said David Mendoza, an Aramark-contracted employee who has been working on campus for 14 years. “They need to pay our complete insurance.”

According to Service Employees International Union member Raphael Leib, who led the rally and procession down Trousdale, workers hope the new contract will require a flat co-payment of $10 for most medical visits rather than a percentage of total medical costs. This change would also apply to their families.

“There are a lot of issues going on that affect us as working people,” Leib said. “Policies that affect working people affect their families as well.”

Sociology associate professor Veronica Terriquez, who has researched labor rights, said the janitor’s union has been instrumental in helping shape the fight for better working conditions throughout Los Angeles for the past 20 years, but there is a still a struggle for fair rights.

“I hope they get a fair contract and get what they deserve,” Terriquez said. “Health care is critical for people who do such hard work. It’s physically demanding and puts them in contact with dangerous chemicals.”

Jose Ramirez, who has been working on campus for 13 years, said the need for improved health care goes beyond just physical medical needs. He wants to see benefits comparable to those of other university employees.

“People get in accidents because of psychological pressure on the job,” he said. “We want to get the best we can for our workers. We’re trying to get the same coverage for medical, visual and dental insurance.”

Details of the new contract were not available to workers and union members at the time of the protest, but other complaints include consideration of salary and tuition benefits for children of Aramark-contracted janitors who work on-campus.

“We live check-by-check,” said Salvador Hernandez, who has been working on campus for 21 years. “USC can afford this program. Why are they going to strangle us [in negotiations]?”

Leib said part of the goal of protesting was to make the USC faculty and students more aware of their grievances.

“We’re members of the USC community,” he said. “We deserve the same respect.”

Several students attended the rally to show their support in the new contract negotiations.

“I talked to one of [the workers]. They have to work limited hours and don’t get health care,” said sophomore psychology major Mayra Morales. “It’s kind of unfair.”

Junior neuroscience major Samantha Castillo said she is concerned that workers will lose some of the rights and benefits they already have.

“I know they were cutting a lot,” she said. “I don’t want them to cut down on anything they already have.”

University administration could not be reached for comment at press time.

7 replies
  1. Cindy Pena
    Cindy Pena says:

    I’m an employee, not a student or a student on scholarship. So don’t worry about me “taking” anything from you. I pay my student loans just like thousands of other working employees in this country. And as an employee I see first hand how the janitors and other “low skilled” workers are treated by students like yourself. Even I have been on the unpleasant receiving end of a student’s entitled attitude, when my job is too help you. Just remember that they are doing the job out of necessity to provide for themselves and their families. The least they can ask for is healthcare.

  2. George
    George says:

    Where are those kids from SCALE who support Third World workers but not the ones that clean up the messes they make right here at SC? Go back to San Marino you frauds!

  3. USC Student
    USC Student says:

    You know, because janitors deserve to get sick, and their families deserve to not have medical care they can afford, and their kids don’t deserve to go to college. The only thing they deserve is cleaning up after USC students own filth and rot. It’s the Trojan way!

    Skilled workers? Well, it probably takes considerably more skill than sleeping through my business classes and facebooking through my GE’s, and my parents paid me a ton of money to do that! But let’s get this fairness thing straight, the janitors mostly are brown-skinned, so of course they don’t deserve any rights or dignity.

  4. max
    max says:

    If they all ready get the education package, then why are they asking for it? Not all employees get this. Ask the people on the medical campus. Yet, you defend it as an entitlement. It’s not, even if you are a janitor.

    Seems to me everyone is entitled to their opinion–even if you don’t like it. Sorry, but janitors are not considered to be skilled workers by anyone, other than yourself, apparently. This is not to say they do not work hard.

    Maybe you are on scholarship–that means that someone other than you is paying for your education–this is a priviledge not a right. That someone is someone like me who contributes to USC–what do you contribute? Or, do you just take?

  5. cindy pena
    cindy pena says:

    To the one who commented that the janitors are not skilled workers. When was the last time you cleaned a toilet after drunken students left it for them to clean up? When was the last time you worked for hours to clean a building only to have entitled students like yourself to come and start throwing your trash on the floor or even acknowledging they exist. These people work extremely hard without even a thank you. I see these people everyday work, work, work without compliant and the least they can get from their employer is health care. You are attending one of the best schools in the country so please take advantage of your education ro expand your view of the world, or even yet expand your views on the people who work really hard so that you may attend a safe, clean campus.

    For the commenter Ann: As a USC benefit, all employees and their children receive an education package. Just like everyone else, they must apply through the proper channels and if accepted to USC, they may begin their education at USC. It’s not an entitlement if someone worked just as hard as the hundreds of other students that got accepted.

  6. chris
    chris says:

    I am sorry, but part of being a “Skilled” worker is gettng the benefits that go with it.

    Janitors are not skilled workers and they should not qualify for the exact same benefits that professors and administrators do.

    Where do you draw the line: That’s the negociation.

  7. Anne
    Anne says:

    “They Can Afford it”

    This seems to be the new mantra of anyone and everyone who is looking for a handout from USC–from Armon Armstead’s lawsuit–“Into the Tens of Millions”, to the SAJE/UNIDOS stick-up for low cost housing to the tune of $20m, in exchange for okaying THE VILLAGE, to the Janitors wanting a free USC education for their kids.

    Where does this sense of entitlement come from? You have it–I want it.


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